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October 16, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has unwittingly become an agent of change in the education industry. Particularly, in the K-12 sector, it has become highly imperative for service providers to relook at the existing educational content and build new solutions. This means they must prepare their business and operating models to embrace the emerging opportunities during these uncertain times.

The opportunities will be different for the sub-segments within K-12, given the distinct behavioral patterns of early learners, middle school, and high-school students. From a socio-economic perspective, the pandemic has created different sets of challenges and opportunities. 

The consideration framework also needs to include the dimensions of Hofstede’s model, the preference of individualism against collectivism – where some students may or may not be comfortable with unsupervised self-learning using technology. Through this blog, we have deliberated on the opportunities arising in K-12 education and also explored the ways in which the sector can build resilience and become future-proof.

Opportunities: Now and the Near Future

It is estimated that 1.4 billion students – 80% of the world’s learners – are impacted by COVID-19-related closures at pre-primary, primary, lower-secondary, upper-secondary, and tertiary levels of education. Based on our observation as to how stakeholders must respond to this situation, we perceive many opportunities in the education ecosystem.

⦁ Embrace Online Medium

Moving from blended learning to pure online learning has put enormous pressure on educational content and service providers as they are struggling to ensure stakeholders’ experiences are comparable to normal times. Subsequently, they must first focus on providing adequate support for infrastructure and operations, starting with embracing cloud-native solutions.

Though advanced learning surveillance technology is evolving, lack of common standards and cost implications for schools means no deployable solution is available yet. For learning solutions providers, we recommend focused collaboration with best-in-class technology players to bridge the gap.

Further, experiential learning continues to be severely missed out in online learning. To that end, digital experiences like AR/VR can be implemented to ensure near-similar effectiveness. Learning solution providers must augment these experiences by institutionalizing design and production factories.

⦁ Optimize and Automate to Counter Lesser Education Budgets

The overall spend in education is likely to go down as an indirect effect of depleting government revenues. Subsequently, educational content publishers would be compelled to deliver more with lesser budgets, which can be achieved by optimizing operations and embracing automation.

⦁ Build Better Sales Strategies

Education books and other learning content publishers must consider stepping up their efforts to sell the rich content base that they already have. Marketing automation with the help of AI algorithms can help publishers sell their existing rich content base. 

⦁ Expand and Improve Channels

Industry experts are exploring ways for wider use of broadcast and on-demand educational content on unconventional media such as TV and radio. Educational content owners should work with syndication partners after adequate design. There would have to be other adjustments to improve user experience on delivery channels for serving online-only consumers.  Improved analytics will be a necessity for understanding product performance in the new paradigm.

⦁ Gain Trust with Technology 

While learning can continue online, educational institutions are struggling to deploy a fully remote online examination system that can address infrastructure, privacy, equal opportunity and cost concerns of examinee, at the same time, restrict malpractices. We feel AI will emerge as the lever to deliver a solution that provides a balance between educator, institution, and learner interests.

Rapid Response and Preparing for the New Normal – Solution Approach

Organizations are working with stakeholders to create rapid response teams, build strategies, and ultimately counter the prevailing issues; at the same time, they are keen on adopting digital technology in education. Our recommendations to the learning content, solution, and service provider companies are as follows:

⦁ Create an all-hands high-powered council with a charter to design action plans. Start with: 

⦁ Being optimistic about identifying opportunities. 

⦁ Realizing what, as a success partner of consumers, the company can improve.

⦁ Determining the hindrances to immediately apply those influences.

⦁ Staying ahead of the curve by generating ideas funneled through a structured process to overcome any challenges.

⦁ Optimize process, technology, and people to gain control over cost, and at the same time, channelize efforts towards addressing the needs of the hour and the new normal.

⦁ Build capabilities rapidly as identified in (a). Develop nimble and agile product engineering functions. Engage and collaborate with specialists to leverage best practices from across the industry. 

To sum it up

The COVID-19 experience has pushed all stakeholders – including governments, school districts, publishers, students, and parents – to drive automation in education. While online learning, newer types of learning media, and AI for adaptive learning are just the beginning, with time, we can expect the new normal of education to be underpinned by innovation, next-gen capabilities, and experiences.


Rajarshi Saha brings 20 years of in-depth knowledge and experience in the education industry through his association with leading educational content and service providers. In his current role, Rajarshi works closely with businesses in the education industry and provides solutions across content technologies and the services landscape. Rajarshi holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science & Engineering from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India.

Sushanta brings an experience of 25 years in the IT industry and has led TCS’ professional learning initiatives as the sub-function head of the Corporate Learning Group. Currently, he spearheads the Product Engineering Practice within the CMI unit and coaches people on agile and product development.



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